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In Carl Kaestle's 1992 essay “Standards of Evidence,” generalization is how we know when we know. Kaestle sketches a model of increasing certainty in historical claims as they are developed and refined at increasing scales of research, from local to international. A historical claim might originate in the study of a particular place or case, but to know that the claims were true, the historian needed to move from the microlevel view to a more macro one, perhaps at the national rather than local level. Once tested and refined through comparison with other cases, possibly smoothing some of the rougher edges in the process, the claim could then be transferred beyond national borders. When a historical claim is polished enough to fit other contexts, we know it is true. Kaestle illustrates this increasing certainty through increasing scale with reference to the history of literacy and, more specifically, to scholarship on how Western European and US industrialization shaped literacy rates. Bringing studies from various locales into connection, and then comparing these cases with the national context, Kaestle summarizes that it was the commercial processes of urbanization, rather than industrialization itself, that helped produce rising literacy in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Generalization at greater scale becomes not only the means through which to claim the value of historical work, but the basis for constructing historical knowledge in the first place.
From the early 1960s through the early 1970s, a new idea drew the interest of local leaders and national networks of educators seeking to further desegregation but concerned about how to do so within the bounds of white resistance. Huge single- or multischool campuses, called education parks, would draw students from broad geographical areas and facilitate desegregation. But in the design and location choices for these imagined (but often not realized) education parks, desegregation advocates revealed a spatial ideology of schooling that reflected both a rejection of racialized black spaces and an antiurban, modernist aesthetic. Beyond recognizing the place of spatial ideology in desegregation advocacy, this article suggests that historians of education listen for ideas about space and their impact in other areas of educational history.
A graduate school of education contains a wide range of disciplinary models for the training of scholars and practitioners. I encounter these models as they come up in conversation with colleagues and students, or I confront them more directly as I pass a clinical psychology laboratory space each morning on the way to my office. I often see small groups of doctoral students at work, huddled around a computer monitor or deep in discussion. As my psychology colleagues are more likely to research and write in teams rather than individually, I read this scene as a sign of collaboration built into graduate training. It also contrasts with my experience of collaboration, or the lack thereof, in my own graduate training in history. In my own education, the most collaborative spaces—in which people come together around a common text and problem—existed in the earliest phases of graduate school. A few students and a professor gathered around a seminar table to analyze a book or article. But later, as students developed their own research agendas and proceeded into the archives, they researched and wrote largely in isolation. Writing groups and other venues for sharing work were sustaining, but the content of research remained an individual affair. (There were hints, though, of new spaces for collaboration—as in the History of Education Society's research mentoring sessions begun in 2009—and likely others existed, but were unknown to me as a graduate student.) Once in a faculty position, reflecting on my graduate training and juxtaposed with what I perceived at the psychology laboratory led me to ask where collaboration fits and how it might matter in graduate training in the history of education.